Times of Old
Chapter 03

Copyright© 2013 by Ernest Bywater

Settling In

In the morning, when he wakes up to the soft light coming through the many light holes, Ed thinks about how this morning is the real start of his new life since it’s the first day with his new mates and living in his cave. Today he has many things to do to see they’re set up to operate in full safety. He also has to see if he needs to deal with Fast Deer soon.

Rolling over Ed looks at the still sleeping Dawn, Fawn, and Dove. He’s surprisingly happy with the sight. Unmarried in his former life he’s surprised to be married in this life, and with three wives. He also thinks on the value of having a mate, and how organising one in this time is so different to his previous life. He’s reluctant to wake his mates, but there’s a lot to do to be ready for the winter in their new quarters.

Ed shows them the images depicting what clothes belongs to them, and they all get the significance of the images. He also shows them how to put on and adjust the new clothes, boots, and gloves. They don’t like putting on the head gear, so he has them try it and put it aside, for now.

Leaving the bedroom they can tell someone has been in the main room because a few of the things have been moved. He shows them how to use a flint kit to start a fire, making them happy to have an easier way, and he opens the secure room while they get started on breakfast. Ed soon has three Bowie knives with sheaths and a belt for them to wear to carry them on. When they put them on he shows them how to use them to defend against an attack by a person or an animal.

They’re finishing their meal when Dale calls to Ed from the entrance. On being invited in he brings in ten men to introduce them. Two are injured and can’t hunt well now, while the other eight are young men who can’t seem to get the hang of stalking the animals properly.

Ed addresses them, “I’ve a lot of work to do and I need people to help me to do it. Since I can hunt well and quickly, Dale has agreed I can organise a work team to do things for me. But it’s up to me to do the hunting for the whole team. He has brought you to me to try you out as possible workers. Is this agreeable to you?” They all nod yes. “We’ll see how we go over the next moon, right?” Ed gets more nods in reply.

Leaving his ladies to sort out their quarters Ed grabs his bow and arrows from the bedroom before he leads his team to the barn cave to show them how to ready and harness the horses for the day’s work. In doing so he introduces them to each horse. He emphasises the need to make slow movements when close to the horses, and to talk to them so the horse knows someone is close to them.

When the horses are hitched to the wagon he opens the entrance and they pack away the net before he gets out the saws, axes, wood splitters, and other tools needed to get the softwood trees for firewood. Some of the women are ready to gather plants when Ed’s team is ready to go, so he gives them a lift in the wagon to near where they want to work, thus saving them a bit of a walk.

The team members follow Ed’s orders well, and they soon have a wagon full of softwood. Most are falls they cut rotten ends off, while some are standing deadwood they cut down. He has the men trim them on site so they’ll take less space in the wagon. They load logs then load suitable branches on top, and the tools go in the driver’s seat area. With the wagon heavily loaded the men walk beside it on the way back about mid-morning. When they reach the women they join the group.

All of the wood is offloaded and Ed shows the men how to use some of the tools to make stripping the bark easier. While they do that he selects a few good pieces then he uses tools to cut rebates, drills dowel pins and holes to create a dozen simple three legged ‘X’ style saw-horses for them to use. Then he shows them how to use them by placing the log on two of the saw-horses to cut the end off at the required length, move the saw-horse, and cut again. This is easier and faster since they’re now working at their waist height, and it’s much appreciated by all involved.

Ed gets out the small wagon and shows two of the men how to work it. They’re then busy loading it two thirds full of wood and taking it down to where Wild Thorn wants the wood stacked in the main cave. They drop a load off at Ed’s quarters for his ladies to use too. The bark is also taken down to use as kindling. With the ten men working as directed by Ed the wood is very quickly cut up and taken down.

Trouble Time

The last load of firewood is being wheeled away, the men are putting the tools in the wagon for later, and Ed is doing a final inspection of the work-site when he hears a woman scream very close by. His immediate reaction is to turn and race for where he left his bow and arrows against the thorn bushes a couple of metres away while he also looks toward the scream. He grabs his weapons at the same time he spots Wild Thorn in the entrance screaming while staring out toward bushes to the south of the entrance. Turning further Ed sees a spear in the ground just a bit north of where he’d been standing, and Fast Deer is charging at him with a knife in his hand. Other men are turning to see what’s up, but Ed has to deal with his attacker right now.

Ed waits until Fast Deer is almost on him, and he now understands his name because he’s very fast crossing the space between them. At almost the last possible moment Ed steps a half pace to his right while he swings his left arm fast across his body as he spins on his left foot. Ed’s left hand hits Fast Deer’s right arm just behind the wrist to knock the knife aside while his right hand flashes forward to hit Fast Deer on the sternum very hard with the base of the palm of Ed’s open hand.

Fast Deer is knocked backward a good pace while being winded. He staggers and falls on his arse. He rolls over and scrambles to get up. Just when he gets onto his hands and knees Ed takes two quick part steps forward to kick him very hard in the balls with the toe of his protected boots while saying, “Maybe this will keep you down for a while.” Fast Deer gives out with a very high pitched scream when his knees are lifted a hand’s width off the ground by the hit. All of the men near there wince at the sound of the impact crunch. Fast Deer faints because of the pain.

Ed grabs a bucket to get a load of water to toss on Fast Deer. When he does that Ed spots Dale and the rest of the hunters walking up from the plains with loads on their backs. While Ed throws water on fast Deer to wake him up Wild Thorn tells Dale what happened, Dale is not happy.

The meat and wood are put away and everyone eats an early cold lunch, except Fast Deer because he’s now awake and moaning while lying on the ground. Dale and Ed talk about what to do with him.

After lunch Dale strips Fast Deer and throws him into the wagon when the men pack the tools on the wagon to go and get hardwood logs for the door. The men on watch at the camp swap with some of the hunters, and the rest get on the wagon to go cut trees. While they load up Ed takes the nose bags off the horses, he’d put them there for them to eat when they returned. He mounts up, and they leave at a slow trot.

When he stops at the hardwood forest the men get off and take the tools with them before they enter the forest. Ed takes a hatchet to use to mark the trees they need to take out and ready to remove. Most are falls with some standing deadwood, but two are living trees because none of the dead are long or thick enough for a particular part of the door. He also tells them to cut four good sections off a very thick log that’s about a metre and a half in diameter and he wants the sections to be about waist high to a man when cut off. Leaving the men to the work Dale and Ed head further up the valley with only Fast Deer in the back of the wagon.

Moving at a fast trot they’re soon a few kilometres up the valley, but still on the forest side the river since they saw no need to cross back after leaving the men at the forest. When they pass the end of a side canyon Ed stops to point at some animal sign in the soft earth near the river.

Dale gets down to look closely at it before saying, “Five or six cave lions, and since we left the men. All heading up the valley.” A little further on they see more tracks, and after examining them he says, “Very fresh, probably watching us at the moment.”

Ed nods as he says, “Right.” Going into the wagon he looks at Fast Deer and asks, “Can you hear me?” He gets a nod yes. “We’re about a half day’s fast walk north of the cave. You can go further north and away or return to the cave. If you return by sundown tomorrow I’ll give you a spear and a knife and you have to leave the area the next day.” He gets a nod yes to indicate Fast Deer understands. With an evil grin Ed picks him up by grabbing his throat and dick. He carries the gurgling man to the back of the wagon and dumps him in the soft ground beside the river. He turns and locks the tailgate in place before going to the front where he locks the door to the wagon. Taking his bow and arrows in hand, and ready to use, he gives the horses orders to turn around to go south.

They leave Fast Deer lying there, whimpering, while they trot away.

Dale holds his spear ready while he says, “I’m glad you’re turning back, because I think the cave lions are stalking us.”

“I think so too. But I hope they’ll investigate the hurt animal making the ‘I’m hurt and ready to be eaten’ noises first. That should give us time to get well away and they should continue north on their hunt after having their snack.” Dale gives a soft laugh in reply.

Ed orders the horses into a medium trot. About the time they reach where they first saw the cave lion signs they hear a cut-off scream from north of them. Dale laughs as he says, “I don’t think I want to know what that’s about, do you?” Ed shakes his head no.

It’s a bit after mid-afternoon when they reach the men at the forest. The work is well advanced, so the two start loading the logs the men have dragged out and trimmed. The winch makes loading the heavier logs a lot easier. About the time they finish loading the logs on hand the men in the forest arrive while dragging out a few more logs and rolling out the big sections. Chains and the winch are used to load the big sections while the last logs and branches are loaded up. When it’s all aboard, with the tools stacked in the driver’s area, they all walk back beside the wagon because there’s not enough room on it for them to ride.

Ed stops in the river for the horses to have a drink, and then it’s back to the cave. At the cave they work until almost dark to unload the trees beside the ones he got the other day. Ed gets odd looks when he has the men roll the three large sections to the spot by the northern bushes where they cut up the softwood that morning. He has them lay the sections flat on the ground a few metres apart, smiles, and says, “Now when we have to split the wood it’ll be very easy to do by setting it on the blocks. They’ll also be good to cut up meat and other things on.” All of the men smile now they can see they have three heavy duty waist high tables to use.

The wood is left near the entrance and the wagon is inside before they clean the tools and put them away. The entrance is made secure and Ed shows his work team and his ladies how to care for the horses.

A late dinner is cooked and eaten by camp-fire light before they all retire for the night. While he gets ready for bed Ed thinks about the day. He feels a lot safer now Fast Deer has shown his hand and been dealt with. Ed almost giggles when he wonders what the alien audience thinks of his feeding his attacker to the lions. He’s soon in bed, snuggled up to his ladies and fast asleep.

Another Hunt

In the morning Ed is eating his breakfast when Wild Thorn walks in and asks to speak with him. His ladies smile at the request, so he wonders what’s up. She says, “My man tells me you’ve offered to do all of the hunting for those who work for you, is this true?” He nods yes, and he’s very confused about where this is going. “Four of the young men have asked four of the young women to be their mates a few moons back, but they haven’t been able to pay the mate price of one large meat animal each. The women have heard you’re a great hunter and of your offer. They’ve asked me to ask you how soon you’ll do this for them.”

“OK, I get it, now! Leave it with me.” She nods yes and leaves him.

A little later they’re ready for the day with the horses harnessed and hitched, but the men are a bit confused when Ed has them mount up without any tools. He heads up the valley and turns up the ramp to the plateau. When he does the men realise he means to hunt today.

When they enter the plateau Ed stops while they look around. It’s much like the other day. The nearest herd is again the bison, and also the sabre-tooth cats are stalking there. He waits for them to bring down a beast well up along the flank. When they do he takes aim and brings down an older bison that’s lagging behind the herd racing away from the danger. The men are nervous when he heads for the bison kill as it’s only a few hundred metres from the cats.

The cats start to eat their kill while the wagon approaches the other kill. Ed gets down and retrieves his arrow before climbing back up onto the wagon. When he turns the wagon around he calls out, “You can have this one too.” The larger adult cat looks up when he speaks.

Moving away from the dead bison Ed says, “Hopefully that’ll be enough for the cat and his family today. If it is, they shouldn’t bother us while we hunt the herd of elk.” The men smile when he heads for the next herd a kilometre across the plain to the north.

While the horses head over at a walk Ed half talks to himself, “Now, how many do we need? Eleven of us, plus four for the mate price, and three for the camp for helping to dress them. That’s eighteen. It’ll be a full load and we may have to walk back. But the wagon and horses should be able to handle it.” The men are shocked about the number of animals he’s talking of killing as well as about him getting the mate price for the four single men with women who’ve agreed to be their mates.

Half an hour later the wagon is moving along the flank of the elk when they spread out while slowly walking away from the large horses. Ed takes aim with his bow while still seated, because most of him is still hidden by the horse between him and the herd if he doesn’t stand. This makes it a bit harder to use the bow, but it’s not that much harder.

He looses the arrow and the man beside him hands him the next arrow, in seconds it’s on its way. He kills eighteen of the slightly smaller sized elk by starting at the back and working his way forward.

The dead elk are spread out in a line about sixty to seventy metres long. Ed moves the wagon up beside the first one and the men are quick to load it up, then most of the men walk while three stay on the wagon to watch for trouble as they move along the line loading the dead elk after Ed removes the arrows. Twenty-five minutes after the first arrow flies the elk are loaded and all are back on board, with the seat full too. Due to the large load Ed has both the tailgate and its extension locked in place so the back is secured to a height of one and a half metres above the bed, or over two and a half metres from the ground.

This has to be approaching the maximum load for the wagon, which is fifteen tonnes. However, Ed estimates they’ve a load of about ten or eleven tonnes of animals plus the men, so probably twelve tonnes. Still too close to the maximum for his liking, especially for the ramp. So he has the horses take it at a slow walk.

A few minutes after they start back the men report a pack of hyenas stalking them. When they get too close Ed kills two with the bow, and he’s quick to retrieve his arrows while the pack backs off for a few minutes. Then there’s a further delay while they argue over and eat their dead. The wagon is about halfway back to the ramp when there’s a loud thump at the tail and the man right at the back laughs. He says, “One of the scavengers just tried to jump into the wagon and knocked itself out when it hit the board you added back here. The others thought it was dead and started eating it, but it woke up when they were getting started. Now a big fight is on.” The men laugh. A little later he adds, “It lost and is now a snack.” Which gets more laughter.

Having lost three of their number to this odd animal the pack backs off and leaves them alone when they see an easier target - a lone old bison. Ed laughs while he watches them move in on the bison, and one of the men asks why he’s laughing. He tells them, “The hyenas are after the lone bison a bit away from the herd and they’re coming up on it from behind.” The men see this and nod their understanding. “The angle has the wind taking their scent to the side of the bison so it’s not aware of them. But the big cats who manoeuvred the bison away from the herd are. I saw when they scented the hyenas and they all crouched lower. I think they intend to let the hyenas bring the bison down and then take the hyenas as an extra snack for their bison dinner.” The men laugh.

They watch the deadly play developing about a kilometre away to their left. The hyenas move up on the bison from behind while the big cats move in from the sides, downwind of both. After several minutes of stalking the twenty or so hyenas swarm the bison and bring it down, but the bison kills two and hurts a few more before it’s dead. When the hyenas start to feed the cats charge in and start in on the hyenas. They go through the pack killing as many as they can before it scatters. For about a minute there’s pure mayhem, then about ten of the hyenas are racing north at their top speed while the cats return to the scene of the battle to start eating. They start on the bison first.

Ed says, “I think they intend to finish most of the bison and then carry the hyenas off for a later snack.” The men laugh. The cats turn to the sound, but only glance at the wagon while it moves away from them.

When they reach the ramp Ed is very glad Clyde is a well-trained and intelligent draught horse. He knows the weight he’s been pulling, so he baulks at going down the ramp. Ed gets down to walk up to Clyde. He stands beside the horse and looks down the ramp while he asks, “Think you could make it down backwards?” Clyde shakes his head no. Ed swears. He knows it’s not the weight, but the combination of the weight with the angle making it very difficult to hold the wagon in check.

Turning to the older of the single men Ed shows him the lifting chains and how to undo them before saying, “Take the single men and hurry back to the cave. I want two men to stand well out from the wall in front of the cave mouth. I’ll stop above the cave and we’ll lower some of the elk down the cliff. That means the women can get a start on the skinning and gutting of them while we get the rest down to the cave.” He nods his understanding and calls the other single men to him. They grab their spears, no one wanders far from their hut without a weapon, and they head down the ramp while Ed directs the wagon along the cliff edge.

By looking across the valley Ed soon knows when he’s near the cave by spotting the entrances to the box canyons. He walks close to the edge to look down. When he sees the two men halfway to the river he waves to them and he lies down to look over the edge. He soon sticks an arrow in the ground near where he judges the stream to be coming out of the cave. Then it’s a case of turning the wagon around and backing it up to a few metres from the edge. He doesn’t want to get too close to the edge.

Ed has one man stand on the seat to keep an eye out for trouble while the other two get an elk ready to lower down by dumping it on the ground. While Ed ties the lifting chain to its hind legs he thanks David for insisting on an extra winch at the back of the wagon. This one is in the centre under the tailgate as it was placed there to help pull the wagon out of a bog. Another was suggested for the front, but it couldn’t be put on and safely mounted because the tongue is where it would need to be put. The lower cable is let out and the elk is lowered down the cliff until the cable is almost all out. Ed stops and moves the left-hand top cable from its pulley to the centre top pulley then he uses a joining link to attach it to the end of the first cable before he lets the first one right out and he takes it off the winch drum. He then lets out the second cable.

A few minutes later Ed is getting concerned because he was sure the two cables would be long enough, but now he may have to winch the elk back up to layout three cables. The second cable is almost all out when it goes slack. A moment later it jiggles and it has no weight on it, indicating the load is off it. Ed has the men dump another elk while he locks the winch in place then he orders the horses forward. The wagon goes forward, taking the cable with it. When the end comes over the edge he stops the horses, attaches the lifting chain to the elk, and he has one man help him slide the elk over the edge, then he orders the horses to back up while he berates himself for not doing it this way to start with.

When the wagon reaches them it again goes slack, so another elk is dumped, and they repeat the process. They keep this up until eight elk have been lowered to the cave this way. Then they pack up the cables in the box before they head for the ramp and the cave.

By the time they get back the first eight elk are dressed and down in the ice cave, so it’s all hands to work while they get the last ten off and cut up. Once all the elk are put away they clean up and have a late lunch.

While the last elk are being cut up Ed cleans the wagon while he shows one of the hurt hunters how to do that before he puts the wagon away. He also removes the harness and tells the horses to graze on the green grass beside the stream, as he should have been doing for days.

After lunch Ed shows the men how to clean up the stables area and to stack the manure in the room set aside for it. He uses a set of brooms, shovels, pushers, and buckets marked for the job - that’s so they won’t get mixed up with anything else. The manure is pushed down to a pile near the front, scooped into buckets, and dumped in the room. Then the buckets are rinsed out on the grass by using buckets of water from the stream. Last is buckets of water from the river are tossed on the stone cave floor while stiff brushes are used to finish the task by scrubbing the floor. He explains the need to only use clean buckets to get water from the river. He leaves the men to finish that while he shows his ladies how to examine and clean the horses’ hooves by using a special rest from the tools cave for the hooves to rest on while they’re worked on. Then he shows them all how to groom the horses again.

No work on the door yet today, but two essential tasks are done and out of the way.

Another essential task is telling Dawn and Wild Thorn he wants all of the people to use the manure cave when they want to have a shit or a piss. He has to take his time to explain about how using the river can cause illness downstream, and how drying it out in the cave means they can have it to use next year. They know about the issue with the river, but they don’t understand why he wants to save the wastes. However, they do appreciate not having to go all the way outside any more. Dawn and Wild Thorn will tell the other women, and Dale will pass it on to the men after he’s told by Wild Thorn.

The rest of the day is spent taking the bark off the cut hardwood and squaring the ends off, along with a lot of other preparation work so they can get on with the job properly in the morning.

The Evening

After the meal Ed decides it’s time he had a good wash. He didn’t ask for any soap because there were no instructions anywhere on the making of soap that had a zero environmental impact capable of being made with the materials available to him here, so he didn’t ask for any. However, when unpacking the wagon he found a box with a hundred and fifty bars of a soap that’s so environmentally safe you can eat it. He knows he soon has to get used to bathing without soap, but he does decide he can use these very sparingly until they’re all used up.

He grabs a bar of soap and four of the towel furs from his supplies before leading his ladies into the room with the first of the two thermal pools. He puts the gear down near the water and he goes back for the materials to make a small fire so they can have more light to see by, because it’s slowly getting dark.

The girls are used to taking a bath in the cold river every now and then, but this is their first hot bath. Well, just off hot. They soon prefer this temperature to the cold river they used to camp beside.

Another surprise is Ed bathing with them. Although they’re not body shy the men and women don’t usually bathe together, not even mates. So this is a new thing for them. Ed wanting to wash them is also new.

Although surprised by Ed wanting to wash them they soon appreciate the closeness of the joint activity and see it as a bonding exercise as well as a cleaning one. They chat on many things while he washes their hair with the soap before he puts it aside to use his hands and a little sand off the soft bottom of the pool on the rest of their body. The sand is only a little abrasive, as it’s just enough to encourage the dirt and old cells to wash off. When he finishes washing the women the three of them wash him. Then they sit around talking for so long the fire is almost out when they get out to wrap in the towel furs to go and dry off in their quarters. When they do he asks them to talk to the other women about bathing in the bigger pool. After they get dried it’s a night of snuggling, but they all snuggle a lot closer than the previous nights, and all are soon asleep.


Author’s Note: In Australia we use the word rebate to refer to cuts into wood to set other pieces of wood into it so it sits flush with the surface of the first piece of wood, in the US they often use the word rabbet for the same task. My main US editor insists readers from North America will be confused if I don’t explain this difference in usage. It’s also common here to refer to a dado as a rebate. My main character and the narrator are Australians, so they use Australian English terms and not the US English terms.

Entry Work

The next morning Ed has his team very busy working on the door. They’re now familiar with using many of the tools, but he has to teach them the use of some more. So the first half of the morning is slow while he teaches them how to shape the logs the way he wants them, both sides and the back are squared and planed smooth. Also, some have rebates for the beams. They soon get familiar with the work. This work is creating a lot of offcuts for the fireplace. Some logs get too messed up for the door and are cut to lengths measured by a string with a little clamp to be used to create hardwood dowel pins for joining things when they get that far.

Once Ed has a few doing that to his satisfaction he harnesses Clyde and hitches him to the small wagon, then he lets the mares out to graze nearby. He also gathers his ladies and has them help him load the offcuts into the small wagon. When it’s loaded he introduces his girls to Clyde and has them hold out their hand so he can sniff it before they offer him a little grain on their open palm, this is part of the process to show they’re trusted and he should listen to them. With introductions over Ed explains the control commands and demonstrates them by Clyde taking this load of firewood down to the main cave by him using the commands. On the way back he has Dawn give the commands. It takes her more than a little while to get the pronunciation right, so she sometimes has to repeat them. The next load is put on and it’s Fawn’s turn to take it down then it’s Dove’s turn to bring Clyde and the wagon back to the work area.

In order to minimise conversation being mistaken for commands the horses respond only to specific words that would not usually be used in general talking. Also, they’re all said in a special way:

Go straight ahead is ‘geeup’ said as geee-oop;
Stop is ‘whoa’ said as wooe;
Left is ‘port’ said as pooort;
Right is ‘starboard’ said as sta-bud;
To turn tight you add ‘yaw’ said as yarl;
Backup is ‘aft’ said as aarft;
To speed up while going straight is ‘flank’ said as flaaank;
To slow down is ‘furl’ said as furl;
To come to you is ‘mizzen’ said as mizzen;

Many are nautical terms from Ed’s time with no counterpart here at all. Those that could be mixed up with local words are said in a way to make it clear which is which. Turns are usually slow and wide until the command yaw is added to make it tighter. The turn command will be given and when the yaw command is added the horse will make the angle tighter. However, the command yaw port will have them make a very sharp left turn straight away, much sharper than a command of port followed by yaw. There are a few other commands, but Ed sees no point in teaching them those because they’re unlikely to be used here.

The horses are very intelligent and they understand much of what is said to them. This is good, because Ed often relies on their intelligence to let him know if he’s asking too much of them, and it also allows them to act on their own behalf in an emergency, such as an animal attack.

By mid-morning Ed’s girls are handling Clyde perfectly. So he takes a break as he swaps Clyde for Lanark to let Clyde graze. Ed introduces the girls to Lanark in the same way as he did with Clyde, and he lets them take turns directing Lanark with the wagon. A few trips each with this mare and it’s all done again with Strath, and then Lothian. By lunchtime all of the ladies can handle the horses well and are known by them too.

They stop for a cold lunch because the girls haven’t had time to cook while learning to handle the horses.

Most of the logs are ready to be used, but Ed has left the larger and important ones to do himself because he can’t afford any mistakes with them. He doesn’t need all of the men this afternoon so he sets them doing two tasks. The big wagon is set up with only two horses, one horse is left to graze, and the fourth is hitched to the little wagon.

Ed locks the front door of the wagon, places Dawn in the driver’s seat with three of his wood looking metal spears, and he locks the steps in place as he says, “I want you to stay up there and direct the horses from the seat. Keep the spears handy and keep an eye out for trouble. If you see any dangerous animals call out to the men and get back here fast. You’re so high it’s hard for men or animals to reach you, and the spears will deal with them while they try to get over the edge.” He points out the mirrors, “Those are called mirrors and they allow you to see what’s coming up beside the wagon as well as what’s well back from the wagon. Keep an eye on them too. Understand?” She nods her understanding.

He turns to the oldest man on his work team, “You’re in charge of this work detail. Go to the softwood forest to get trees for us to cut up for firewood. You know what’s wanted. Keep an eye out for trouble and come back quick if there is any. Only load the wagon up to the tailgate top then climb in and call out to Dawn to bring you back. Stack the tools on the logs when you get on. Bring a load back and unload it, then some men will stay here to cut it up while you get two more loads. Be safe and take care of the team.” All of the men nod yes and climb into the back of the wagon. The leader yells out and Dawn is off.

Fawn and Dove load the offcuts and take the load down to the main cave while Ed and the two men with him go to work on the main logs for the door.

By mid-afternoon two loads of firewood have been brought back, so two men from that detail are stripping the bark and cutting them up. After each trip Ed has the girls rotate the horses between the tasks so they share the load and each horse can get some more grazing time.

He also has the main frames for the doorway ready to be fitted.

The grooves in the ceiling and sides have been visible all along, but the men are surprised when Ed has them dig out the little trough in the doorway and they find a wide groove there. After the woodcutters go Ed moves some of the finished beams into the barn so he can lay them out on the stone floor to work on them. When a few logs are there and his two men are busy outside he enters the tool store to bring out a bunch of prepared beams he brought with him as these are wood-looking metal.

The special beams include two pieces to be the bottom beams because they won’t rot and need replacing, as well as the uprights for the doors with the frames for the doors. He also has the bearing units for the doors.

Using the main door base unit as a measure Ed makes the upper frame beam from one of the longer logs. This is a critical beam because he has to make it so the bearing units for the door uprights are in the right spots. The top of the metal base unit rises a couple of fingers above the floor and it has a slope on each side to make taking the wagons over it easy. This, and the main door frames, need to be metal to take the weight of the completed doors without needing constant replacing.

With that beam ready he measures and prepares the seven uprights he needs for this frame, plus the five uprights and top beam for the part of the entrance over the stream and to its left when you look out, as well as an upright that will go between the two frame units.

The two men working on the hardwood help Ed to put the frames together. First is to attach the uprights to the mainframe floor beam with the wood looking metal pins provided for this task. Then slot the door posts into the inset bearings and check they fit snug against the frames they have to swing up against, but still have room to swing in and out. Now it’s time for the top beam he spent so much time getting right as he had to put the bearing inserts into it. Once it’s on with the door posts in, and the beam sitting in the rebates of the other uprights, it’s time to drill a few angled holes to drive the dowel pins in to lock it all together. It now has three uprights on the frame’s wall side and two uprights on each side of the frame for the main door with the two doors in the holes the uprights make. The bottom beam is a little longer than the top beam so the upright that’ll go in the centre and lock them in place can sit on it to be above the floor to reduce the risk of rotting.

The second frame is easier to put together because there’s only the floor beam that’s special. The five uprights are attached using the special pins to come in from underneath into the beams, three beams near the wall and two at the other end. Then the cross beam goes on that to have holes drilled and the pins hammered in to lock it all together.

With both frames done just before the woodcutters arrive back with their third load Ed has half of them help him lift the main frame to carry it to where it has to go. They need to angle it a little to get the top beam into the upper groove, then it pushes in while they slide the base forward to be above the floor groove. They’re holding it up to keep it square since a part is still over the stream and the rock beside it. Ed checks it aligns to the groove in the wall then he starts to slowly edge it into the wall. There’s a little slack when it slides into the groove, but not much. When the whole of the base beam is over the floor groove he has the men lower it into the groove. Once in place it can move just a little in any direction, and there is a fair sized gap between it and the top of the ceiling groove.

Next is the small frame for over the stream and the space between it and the wall. They lift this and carry it to the entrance at a slight angle. The wall end is placed in the slot with the other end tight up against the first frame. A bit of judicious pushing plus some hits with the hammer on the wall side uprights sees it slide into place with a gap the width of an upright between the two frame uprights.

Ed grabs the last prepared upright he has on the barn floor and sets the base on the floor beam. It’s a very tight fit and he needs to use some brute force with hammer work to get it into place. But once it’s in the frames are locked in tight with no sideways movement at all. He drills some holes from the left through all the uprights at the join and he puts some long pins in place to lock them all together.

Now is the time for the last locking pieces to be inserted. Ed gets two one metre long beams he squared off and he has the wagon brought in to be near the wall on the stream end. He checks the measurement with his string measure. It looks good, but a fitting attempt shows some trim is needed. He gets down and trims the block. When it’s ready he has a little trouble putting it on top of the top beam and hammering it to the left along the top of the beam all the way into the gap until it’s right against the end of the groove. Another like it is fitted at the other end, and then he has to trim the last of the long beams to be a perfect fit in the space between them. Once they’re in place there’s no movement in the frame at all, it’s as if it’s part of the rock. He finishes this by drilling some holes through the top beams into these locking beams and in go the hardwood dowel pins to lock it all together. No pulling this apart in a hurry.

While Ed hammers the pins in he’s glad he’s making them all to be perfect fit sizes to match the holes. Also, they’re all drilled down into the wood offcuts from the end so the grain is down along the pin and not across it, thus making the pins stronger and harder to break. The wood he’s using is a very tough hardwood like his native Ironbark, which is known for being very hard and very long lasting. The down side is he’ll have to sharpen the saws and drills soon because it’s hard on the tools too.

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